Pregnancy is often an exciting time, and one of emotional and physical change. Your body adapts continually throughout the 9 months, to cope with the altering dynamics. Pregnancy is not an illness. Yet sometimes its physical and emotional demands can make it harder to carry on with your busy life. Osteopathic treatment can support you :
In the first three months your pregnancy may not show, but fatigue and nausea are common. Cranial osteopathy can help soothe the system, reducing anxiety and giving you a space to feel nurtured. This is also a good time to have a structural assessment, to ensure your spinal function is optimal. I can advise you on suitable exercises, and give postural advice to help you during the coming months.
Nausea and fatigue
Nausea is common in early pregnancy, usually clearing between 16 and 20 week’s gestation. It’s generally attributed to rising levels of pregnancy hormones. But some unlucky women suffer throughout, and may need specialist care if they become weak and dehydrated. Nausea, fatigue and stress interact with each other. Cranial osteopathy may calm the system and help relieve stress. Gentle structural and visceral techniques can aid digestion.
- dry biscuit first thing in the morning
- Frequent sips of water, to remain hydrated
- Small, frequent snacks to maintain blood sugar levels. Healthy slow-release foods are best
- A suitable pregnancy supplement, best taken with food
- Some women find that acupressure wrist bands relieve nausea
The relaxin hormone becomes detectable 7-10 weeks into pregnancy, reaching a peak by 14 weeks. It’s purpose is to soften the ligaments, especially of the pelvis, in order to facilitate birth. It stays around for several months after birth, and longer if breastfeeding. As you become heavier, the load on your feet increases. This, combined with the effects of relaxin, can cause your arches to flatten which can lead to compensatory problems further up your body. So, choose comfortable, cushioned footwear with good arch support. Bear in mind that your feet may widen during pregnancy.
Softened ligaments are more prone to injury. If you have a toddler already, try to encourage them to climb onto your lap, rather than bending down, and alternate sides when carrying them on your hip. Take time to lift and lower them. Try to avoid sudden movements, especially twisting under load. Take care when bending, and use your knees.
Heartburn / acid reflux
As your baby grows, your internal organs have to compete for space. Your stomach has less room. An increasing level of progesterone causes muscles to relax. This can lead to inefficient functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter, which then allows gastric acid to move into the lower oesophagus, causing the burning pain. Osteopathy can help optimise function of the diaphragm and gastric region.
Other useful tips include :
- Eat slowly, and chew food well. Have smaller meals less frequently.
- Try not to drink much with meals
- Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime
- Sit upright whilst eating, support your low back wih a cushion, and avoid slouching as this can compress the stomach
- Consider raising the head of your bed a few inches
- Go easy on spicy food. Although heartburn in pregnancy is often related to mechanical factors, rather than food type
Common in pregnancy, again progesterone is often the culprit, as it causes intestinal movement to slow down. Osteopathic balancing of the lower spine may help, alongside appropriate visceral techniques. The following ideas may be useful :
- Keep hydrated, but try to drink between meals rather that with them. There is a natural tendency to reduce your fluid intake to avoid even more loo trips. But hydration is really important to bowel transit time. Adequate hydration may also help guard against fatigue and nausea.
- Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and high fibre foods. Beetroot is a good addition (high in iron, and folic acid, and great for relief of constipation ). It can be enjoyed grated raw, cooked or juiced.
- Exercise daily, at an appropriate level for your stage of pregnancy. Brisk walks are gentle but effective.
Pelvic Girdle Pain/ Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction
As pregnancy progresses, weight and spinal curves are constantly changing. The curve of the lower back (lumbar lordosis) increases, and the looser ligaments may lead to pain around the joints of the pelvis. In addition, increasing breast size puts a strain on the upper (dorsal) back. Sometimes, sciatic pain can occur down the back of your leg. Osteopathy can reduce pain and discomfort by correcting imbalance and strain in the spine, pelvis and ribs. All techniques are carefully adapted to your stage of pregnancy. Also:
- Wear a well fitted bra with wide shoulder straps.
- Do slow, backwards shoulder rolls several times a day, to reduce tension in the upper back.
- Avoid standing on one leg, try to keep weight evenly distributed.
- When sitting, keep both feet on the floor and avoid twisting.
- Take care with your footwear.
- Avoid sitting on the floor.
- When lying on your side, have a pillow between your legs, to stabilise the pelvis.
- Try to keep your knees together when getting in/out of the car, a silky cloth on the car seat can help swivel your body more easily
Author: Liz Pegg, Senior Osteopath at Sussex Back Pain Clinic
Since graduating as an osteopath in 1991, I’ve worked with people of all ages, helping them to achieve their potential and do the things they love most. I often see several generations of a family, and love the sense of continuity and perspective that comes with this.
I particularly enjoy treating pregnant women. Pregnancy is a normal part of life, an exciting time involving physical and emotional change.
It’s a time of transition, when women are often juggling family and work issues, leaving little time for themselves.
As an osteopath, I can provide safe, effective treatment throughout pregnancy to help relieve structural imbalances, and improve function. Many pregnancy-related aches and pains can be relieved with osteopathic treatment. Techniques are gentle, and adapted to your stage of pregnancy.
I can also help ensure you are in the best shape for your labour, and advise on posture and appropriate exercise. After the birth, I offer check-ups for Mum and baby, to ensure any issues are dealt with quickly.
If you are pregnant, and considering treatment, do get in touch and I will be happy to answer any questions.